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A second answer to Why?

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Why? was the title of a post by Nick K, my co-blogger here at NM, as he grappled with the “reasoning” behind the vaccine and mask mandates here in NZ and similar approaches taken in most corners of the globe.

I came across one possible answer to that question covered in the post, One answer to Why?, which looked at the control of popular thinking via language control in the modern context of Tech companies in the Webosphere.

Here’s some background to those companies and their leaders in this article from City-Journal in 2017, The Disrupters, which is all about the new Lords of Silicon Valley:

In just ten years, Facebook built a global empire that surpassed General Electric in market value—and did it with just 4 percent of the Old Economy giant’s workforce: 12,000, compared with 300,000. Whatsapp, a recent Facebook acquisition, managed an even more impressive wealth-to-labor ratio, with a $19 billion value and just 55 employees. Combined, both companies reach roughly one-sixth of humanity. Facebook’s entertainment colleague just to the south, Netflix, crushed Blockbuster’s mammoth national network of 9,000 stores and 60,000 employees with its more nimble workforce of just 3,700 employees.

Capitalism in action. Many firms have been so destroyed in the past by new competitors. The article goes on to explore what might happen next with AI, robotics and so forth, providing examples along the way involving brilliant young people, like Michael Sayman. In doing so the writer interviewed a number of the leading lights of this IT revolution and even got an opinion poll done of them to assess where they thought it was all going.

That’s where it gets sad – and scary. For a start these founders (147 were polled) don’t like talking about inequality, probably because of this:

As far as the future of innovation and its impact on ordinary people, the most common answer I received in Silicon Valley was this: over the (very) long run, an increasingly greater share of economic wealth will be generated by a smaller slice of very talented or original people. Everyone else will increasingly subsist on some combination of part-time entrepreneurial “gig work” and government aid.

Now I’ve done pretty well out of capitalism, but to me that future sounds like it sucks ass, even with a theoretical Universal Beneficiary Income (UBI). Fully Automated Luxury Communism it is not. It’s actually Marx’s “disguised form of alms”. It’s quite clear that these “thought leaders” are very leary of what may happen when they’ve built robots that can do most things better than a human.

And what of the political and philosophical attitudes that go with all this? Well it’s not actually as obvious as you might think. First with the political:

Contrary to popular opinion, most of Silicon Valley is not a libertarian ATM. The tech industry is overwhelmingly Democratic. In 2008, 83 percent of donations from the top Internet firms went to Obama, not John McCain. Many of the Valley’s household names, including Google’s then-chairman Eric Schmidt, personally helped Obama in both presidential campaigns. Republicans rarely get much money or talent from the Valley.

Yet they’re against unions and regulations (of their industry) and big on free trade of course, which is why Bernie Sanders gets no love from these people, nor would any Democrat of the pre-1990’s. Nor Donald Trump. Bill Clinton sniffed the winds well.

Then there’s the philosophical ideas that drive their politics:

What I discovered through my survey was that Silicon Valley represents an entirely new political category: not quite liberal and not quite libertarian. They make a fascinating mix of collectivists and avid capitalists…But Silicon Valley philosophically diverges with libertarians and conservatives in a key way: they aren’t individualists. 

He gives a great example of the latter:

When the libertarian icon Rand Paul began his early run for president in 2015, in San Francisco, he expected to be greeted like a hero. During the rally that I attended, Paul got rousing applause for railing against mass government spying. But when Paul asked, “Who is a part of the leave-me-alone coalition?” expecting to hear cheers, the room went silent. “Not that many, huh?” he nervously asked.

He’s not the only one who is nervous on hearing that, and it leads straight into this:

In my survey, founders displayed a strong orientation toward collectivism. Fifty-nine percent believed in a health-care mandate, compared with just 21 percent of self-identified libertarians. They also believed that the government should coerce people into making wise personal decisions, such as whether to eat healthier foods. Sixty-two percent said that individual decisions had an impact on many other people, justifying government intervention.

That is, tech founders reject the core premise of individualism – that citizens can do whatever they want, so long as they don’t harm others.

And consider that several of these fantastically wealthy men control companies that very much can aid (or oppose) a government via their extraordinary reach into influencing the lives of hundreds of millions, probably billions, of people. This is the world of “Nudge Theory”, and it’s very applicable to the last two years of the C-19 pandemic – a period that has seen their fortunes skyrocket beyond what was even thought possible in 2017, in several cases almost doubling to $150 billion or $200 billion plus.

Hold that thought.

What has all this done to the US state that is home to almost all of this wealth and genius, California?Well, as this National Review article describes, it’s not good, The Crumbling California Model. Again it’s lengthy with a lot of links to prove its points, but basically it comes down to this:

Yet it’s time now to see what California’s “success” is all about. It reflects a new kind of economy — dominated by a few large companies, with an elite workforce, a large service class, and a population increasingly dependent on wealth redistribution. This emerging oligarchic regime, however progressive it likes to label itself, is more feudal than egalitarian, more hierarchical than competitive, financed largely by the same tech giants who help fund Newsom’s successful defeat of the recall.

Exactly what was described by that 2017 poll of those Californian tech leaders. That state was once a remarkably diverse, job-rich economy, with vibrant aerospace, oil, trade, manufacturing, business services, and agriculture sectors, as well as software and media. But aside from the IT industry those sectors have fallen away, taking with them the well-paid jobs for people who can’t program a computer. If living on wealth redistribution sounds great to you, consider this:

For most, the reality on the ground is increasingly challenging. The state is now the second-most unaffordable state for home-buyers, a particular challenge for Millennials, and it suffers the highest rate of “doubling up” — only our friend Hawaii does worse. California has the largest gap between middle and upper wage quartiles in the nation, and it has a level of inequality greater than that of Mexico and closer to that of Central American countries such as Guatemala and Honduras than to such “progressive” developed counties as Canada and Norway.

The paradox is that California Democrats, the voters as well as the politicians, adore those welfare states and wish to be more like them without recognising that there is more to “welfare” than government money.

Back to that article I linked to the other day, looking at the control of language and ideas in our modern world. It finishes with this:

During the last three decades and possibly more, Western governments working hand in glove with large corporate interests have spent enormous energy and resources on perception management techniques designed to effectively undermine citizens’ ability to oppose the policies that these same elites, in their incandescent wisdom, have decided are best for the people. 

The attacks of September 11th gave these corporate and government leaders both the additional funds and the political latitude they needed to greatly accelerate work on these culture-planning processes. The Covid crisis has put the whole game on steroids. 

We have many ways of ignoring these frightening developments, most common and intellectually lazy of these being to dismiss them without examination under the rubric of “conspiracy theories.”

One answer to Why?

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When an individual enters the regressed mental space [of “learned helpness], the stature of all those presented to him as authority figures—no matter their actual level of competence or coherence—rises dramatically. 

Why? was the title of a post by Nick K, my co-blogger here at NM, as he grappled with the “reasoning” behind the vaccine and mask mandates here in NZ and similar approaches taken in most corners of the globe.

I have two possible answers to that question, they’re rather disturbing, they’re connected, and I’ll deal with the second in a follow-up post.

This article from The Brownstone Institute in the USA is a bit of an intellectual wank:

When we write as humanists, we select from the inventory of verbal metaphors we have acquired in the course of our lives to tell a story that we believe will enlighten and will capture the attention of our readers. In providing them with this carefully arranged series of “charged” anecdotes we trust that we are, in some way, facilitating ….

Blah, blah, blah. Yuck.

But it does contain two nuggets as it compares the culture, the use and control of language and thinking surrounding the 9/11 attacks and the C-19 pandemic:

Once this “mini-course” in fear-tinged mental disjunction was offered to the public and accepted by it with little visible pushback in the first weeks and months of the crisis, Fauci, Birx and Redfield, along with their chosen spokespeople at the CDC and in the media, were in effect, “off to the races.”

With the basic template we rely on to make reasoned risk assessments about our lives effectively shattered, millions lapsed into the mental state that has always been the programmatic end goal of those, like Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, who design torture programs for the US government: “Learned helplessness.” 

When an individual enters this regressed mental space, the stature of all those presented to him as authority figures—no matter their actual level of competence or coherence—rises dramatically. 

Indeed, considerable research suggests that a lack of coherence or predictability in such authority figures only enhances the now psychically helpless person or group of persons’ estimation of the “authority figure’s” irreplaceability and excellence. This suggests that there may have been more than a little “method” in the apparent “madness” of Fauci’s notorious flip-flops on key policy issues. 

For a certain part of the population, perhaps bereft of rituals and practices designed to help them transcend the crude, cruel and ambiguity-generating rhythms of our now largely transactional culture, the surrendering the self to authority can take on an almost religious allure. 

They give an example of a conversation that is…

“… quite representative of dozens I have had in real life during the last 22 months, maintained often with “well-educated” people who, in no small percentage, can rightfully place MAs and PhDs after their names on resumes”.

Person A: I am really scared about Covid. 
Person B: Do you know what the chances of dying for someone your age who happens to catch Covid? 
Person A: No.
Person B: Well, according to the latest CDC statistics your chances of survival if you get it are 99.987%. 
Person A: But I know of the cousin of a friend who was my age and healthy and who died. I also read a news report about a healthy young person dying in New York the other day. 
Person B: Yes, the reports you speak of may be true. But they point to very particular instances that might not be representative of general trends, and thus are not really helpful in helping you determine your actual risk. The only useful way to do that is by looking at broadly-constituted statistics. 
Person A: I knew it. I just knew it. You really are one of those conspiracy-loving Covid deniers who is happy to just let lots of people die. 

That’s also quite representative of conversations I’ve had over the last two years, including with commentators on this blog.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 15, 2022 at 4:00 pm

The suicide of expertise

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This was the title of an article written by Law Professor Glenn Reynolds for USA Today back in 2017. But what it has to say seems even more powerful as the years have passed.

According to Foreign Affairs magazine, Americans reject the advice of experts so as “to insulate their fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.” That’s in support of a book by Tom Nichols called The Death of Expertise, which essentially advances that thesis.

Well, it’s certainly true that the “experts” don’t have the kind of authority that they possessed in the decade or two following World War II. Back then, the experts had given us vaccines, antibiotics, jet airplanes, nuclear power and space flight. The idea that they might really know best seemed pretty plausible.

But as Reynolds points out, the last fifty years contains a rather large number of big mistakes by experts:

  • The Vietnam war and “The Best and The Brightest”.
  • The War on Poverty (still being lost the last I heard).
  • Government nutritional advice from the 1960s on.
  • Failing to foresee the fall of the USSR.
  • Failing to foresee the rise in Islamic extremism.
  • Iraq and other “democracy building” projects gone awry. (2022 added Afghanistan to that ilist)
  • The Housing and Subprime mortgage bubbles of the 2000’s, leading to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008; a failure in both forecasting and handling.

There are a whole lot more smaller ones scattered in there as well, including Brexit and the botched launch of Obamacare. Reynolds quotes Nassim Taleb, a mathematical statistician (best known for his book The Black Swan):

“With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers.”

Reynolds also points out that this class of “experts” has done pretty well for itself in this same time period, even as many of the ordinary people they tell what to do, have not. Reynolds has a suggestion on that:

If experts want to reclaim a position of authority, they need to make a few changes. First, they should make sure they know what they’re talking about, and they shouldn’t talk about things where their knowledge isn’t solid. Second, they should be appropriately modest in their claims of authority. And, third, they should check their egos.

In the last two years of the C-19 pandemic I’ve seen no sign of any of this from the “experts”, where ego has been combined with an MSM that loves “experts” (as long as they agree with the Narrative and/or “Settled Science”).

On that last I appreciated these end-of-year musings about it all in Science and Chainsaws. There’s some throat clearing at first:

I’m no virologist or geneticist, but experts I respect persuaded me of the vaccines’ safety and efficacy. I got jabbed as soon as possible and regret that others chose not to. I wear masks in some situations, and not others. I see people socially but avoid large crowds. I favored lockdowns and school closings in early 2020 but think they lingered too long.

As grateful as he is to these scientists however, he sounds some warning notes:

The history of medicine offers ample reasons to avoid smug certitude which, unfortunately, is abundant on social and traditional media. Science is always about likelihood and never about certainty, though word apparently hasn’t reached Twitter and TV news. Then there is the flagrantly political demeanor of so many COVID experts.

He makes particular mention of the way that ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was lionised, and the feedback of the man to that praise with comments like, “Look at the data. Follow the science. Listen to the experts. … Be smart.”

How many times have we heard that from others? But as the writer says:

Here’s why they shouldn’t. Science, like a chainsaw, is an exceedingly powerful and useful tool. But “follow the science” makes no more sense than “follow the chainsaw.” The chainsaw doesn’t know the safest way to cut a tree, and science—let alone some anthropomorphic vision of it—can’t weigh the tradeoffs between slowing COVID and shutting down schools and cancer surgeries.

He finishes by quoting from a woman Ann Bauer, who has an autistic son and in the 1990’s was hammered as the cause of autisim; a “refrigerator mother” according to the theories of Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, who is now regarded as a charlatan but for a time was held as the holder of a gospel truth:

In October, novelist and essayist Ann Bauer wrote a poignant column, “I Have Been Through This Before,” on her discomfort with the parade of cocksure COVID experts issuing ever-changing diktats and pronouncements. When vaccines didn’t end the pandemic, she wrote, “doctors and officials blamed their audience of 3 billion for the disease. The more the cures failed, the greater the fault of the public.”

Science is ultimately about learning. I see little evidence of that at present.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 11, 2022 at 9:56 am

From ZOMG Omicron to “Long Covid”

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I’d already covered much of this in the post, Political Science, but other recent news is worth adding into the picture.

That was Dec 27 and just like clockwork, here’s the Associated Whores on Christmas Eve.

You’d have to dig deeper to discover the amazing fact about NYC, or that nearly every other state has also broken records. Like most of the MSM they rely on 80% of their readers not going beyond the headline.

Then there’s this Christmas news and the speculation about an end to Covid-shaming:

Of the top 10 states (including Washington, D.C.) with the highest COVID-19 infection rate at the moment, seven of them are governed by Democrats.

Unfortunately for CNN and MSNBC, that fact can’t be directly traced to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis so they’ve chosen not to really talk about it, but if they did, they might ask what Democrats are doing so wrong in D.C. (averaging 1,313 new cases each day), New York (32,566), New Jersey (14,028 ), Rhode Island (1,382), Delaware (1,029), Illinois (12,426), and Hawaii (1,361).

What’s going on? Why aren’t they Following The Science? Are Democrats trying to kill people?

The national media’s beloved New York, the place Saint Anthony Fauci once said was doing everything “correctly,” has seen a 55 percent increase in hospitalizations as of Monday. D.C. has seen a 94 percent increase.

Actually this is good news for two reasons.

First, because Omicron fear will not long survive the stats on low hospitalisation and death rates:

Second, because political fear is rapidly exceeding health fear:

The administration of floundering bozos who currently run the country are desperate to get out of the epidemic… Nothing is going to stop the butt-kicking coming in November, but it will be magnitudes worse if we aren’t out of the epidemic by then, so I predict that sometime in the spring, the Presidementia will declare victory and do everything possible to end all restrictions and return to “normal”, if we even remember what that was.  He and his party have to get the CV-19 millstone off their necks.

As pointed out yesterday the process has already started but I’ll let the Health Skeptic sum it up:

You can read the tea leaves from Fauci, Walensky, et al, the political stooges of the White House.  Backtracking as fast as they can from their former rigid orthodoxy about how the epidemic had to be handled.  Suddenly PCR tests aren’t reliable indicators of infectiousness and maybe every hospitalization and death attributed to CV-19 actually wasn’t caused by it.  Two Democrat governors have said very clearly that mask mandates are worthless and masks do nothing to stop the spread [“Well it’s not curbing the spike down in New York City, which is probably ground zero,” Connecticut Governor Lamont responded.] I am shocked that they were not instantly struck down with lightning bolts for such heretical apostasy to the mask religion.  The mass media, which is slavishly devoted to the interests of the progressive wing of the Dumocrat party, is even publishing articles about the need to move on.

Of course there are grifters out there for whom “moving on” means shifting the goal posts:

What exactly is “long COVID”? Good luck finding a solid, evidence-based answer to that. It’s typically described as a set of symptoms that could possibly be caused by the lingering effects of previously having the coronavirus. The problem? The symptoms in question (brain fog, low energy, etc.) are so generic that they could literally be caused by dozens of other ailments, or they could actually be nothing at all.

For example, as RedState reported months ago, a study out of the UK examined “long COVID” in children. Incredibly, the results showed that kids in the control group (i.e. those who never even had COVID) had a higher prevalence of “long COVID” symptoms than those who had actually been infected at the four-week and 12-week intervals of the study.

What does that tell you? Well, it seems to suggest that “long COVID” could very often just be people being human. Humans tend to get sick, have headaches, feel spaced out, etc. from time to time. To assign every preceding ill a person endures to a past COVID infection is highly dubious.

The perfect scam. You don’t have to actually prove that “long COVID” is highly prevalent and a serious issue. You can just claim that a whole group of common ailments that likely have nothing to do with C-19 are a result of “long COVID” and then demand others to prove the negative.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 8, 2022 at 6:00 am

Political Science

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No, not the “scientific” study of politics.

We’re going to have to add another category:

There have been some extraordinary flip-flops in the USA over the last couple of weeks on the Chinese Xi Snot disease.

Cloth masks don’t work – CNN

“Cloth masks are not appropriate for this pandemic,” CNN’s Dr. Leana Wen said on Monday night. “It’s not appropriate for omicron,” she continued. “It was not appropriate for delta, alpha, or any of the previous variants, either, because we’re dealing with something that’s airborne.”

On the other hand, back in July of 2020, Wen was actually touting cloth masks on Twitter. “It’s a lot less uncomfortable than ventilators, dialysis lines, all of those things that have had to happen to my father,” she warned.

PCR tests are unreliable – CDC director:

The newly updated CDC guidelines don’t require testing at the end of isolation because PCR tests can stay positive for up to 12 weeks, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told “Good Morning America” Wednesday. “So we would have people in isolation for a very long time if we were relying on PCRs,” Walensky explained.

I can think of other problems raised by such sensitive tests that can produce a bucketload of false positives – like huge numbers of cases that could scare the shit out of ordinary people when publicised by unscrupulous or moronic MSM sources and government healthcare bureaucrats – and politicians of course.

Ten day quarantines can be cut to five days – CDC

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just dropped adjusted quarantine guidelines for COVID-19 and vaccinated individuals. This is after an outcry from the airline industry that the guidelines and the surge in Omicron variant cases were causing staffing shortages.

Wait! What? You mean to say they took other factors into consideration rather than just “YOU WANT TO KILL GWANDMA.

The reason for the change then was not “SCIENCE” but complaints from industry. This was promptly backed up by none other than Dr Fauci. The decision is based on keeping things open because the sheer number of people testing positive with Omicron would crash things if they were all told to follow the previous CDC rules.

As a result the Left hit the roof, as you can see from the responses on that Twitter thread. My fave so far (H/T Spongebob Squarepants):

sAcRiFiCe YoUr LiFe FoR tHe GlOrY oF mAmMoN

Although it’s a tough competition since they’ve thrown their idol as far under the bus as they could (from that link):

The Left “embraces the science” only when the science embraces the left’s narrative. When it does not, science is to be ignored, manipulated, dismissed out of hand, or bald-faced lied about it. BTW, one of the nutters there, Rashida Tlaib, is a member of Congress; part of “The Squad” actually, those fearsome new Women of Colour taking the baton of socialism from Bernie Sander’s dying hands.

Yet the same Left is aghast that Fauci admitted that “The Science” is really The Politics. But barely anything in the past two years of the pandemic has been done because of science. It’s all politics. And dirty, crude, base-stroking politics at that.

In fact this is the CDC doing science, although they’re just catching up – to the point where they’re obviously now going to start treating C-19 like every other respiratory virus. Cold and flu contagions are generally within the first 2-5 days of onset of symptoms. If a person has no symptoms, then it is a waste of time, money, manpower, and critical resources forcing them to isolate. They had been warned a few days earlier:

A trade group representing major U.S. airlines urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to halve its recommended quarantine time for individuals with breakthrough cases of Covid-19, warning the current 10 days could lead to labor shortages and flight disruptions.

An implicit lockdown then. Well duh! And it wasn’t just the CEO of Delta Airlines either.

Folks on the Left are mad at Fauci and the government for making it so plain that it isn’t just about public health – that economics and politics factored into the decision. Why were those important factors not important enough to consider before when small businesses were being shut down and people were losing their jobs? It was always true that you should consider other factors. It’s just that earlier they didn’t care and were willing to throw everything under the bus. Some of them – not just the screamers – still are:

Is it because they don’t want society to grind to a halt under Joe Biden? I’d bet that it is.

Which is why we got this from The Big Guy: “There is no Federal solution”. Plus an assist from the “conservative” journalist, Jennifer Rubin at the WaPo, whose brain was so broken by Trump that she flip-flops shamelessly on everything; here on what rising case numbers mean politically for DeSantis vs Biden a few months apart.

In this she and the rest of the MSM are just acting as stenographers for the Administration; here’s Biden COS Ron Klain repeating the same argument that saw Right wingers and other opponents of these policies cancelled from FaceTwit just months ago. It should always have been about protecting those most at risk and not locking everyone down. But the Democrats were too busy pushing fear pornography.

The FaceTwit banning shit is still going on:

But in nine months time, they’ll find out he was right the whole time, which will then add some more fun to Right Wing commentator Ben Shapiro’s selection of all these backtracks and more in this thread:

So once it became clear that covid was not in fact a pagan god visiting vengeance on the unwashed Trump voters alone, the media and Democrats are now willing to admit the following:

1. Cloth masks are ineffective against omicron (Leanna Wen, CNN);
2. The vaccinated can spread and get covid;
3. The death rate is comparable to the flu (Chris Hayes);
4. Many people are entering hospitals with covid, not from covid (Fauci);
5. Natural immunity is a reason omicron hasn’t been as virulent (Fauci);
6. We have to take into account societal needs, not just spread prevention (CDC);
7. The asymptomatic should not be tested (NFL);
8. We should focus on hospitalizations and deaths, not case rate (Biden);
9. Children are not at risk and schools should remain open;
10. Covid is predominantly an illness affecting the immunocompromised and elderly and we should not shut down society.

I wonder when anybody in New Zealand, starting with our MSM, is going to catch up with any of this?

Oh, who am I kidding, they were ideological bitches for the Left before this started and thanks to $110 million they’ve moved to be whores for Labour.

Astronomy’s $10 billion Christmas Present

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Although it’s still in the process of unwrapping itself.

A few hours ago, on America’s Christmas Morning, the James Webb Space Telescope was launched by a European Space Agency (ESA) rocket, an Ariane 5, from the ESA site in French Guiana. About half and hour later it detached from the upper stage, as shown in the video below.

Rocket launches are always fairly tense, but at maximum when you’ve got a one-of-a-kind bird like this. The original plan had the telescope being launched by 2007 and costing a billion dollars, but for once I won’t throw shade at NASA about these factors because this telescope simply cannot be allowed to fail as it will be stationed about one million miles from Earth and therefore unfixable if anything goes wrong.

By contrast the Hubble Space Telescope orbits Earth about 300 miles up and was designed to be serviced by the Space Shuttles. A good thing too as when it was first launched in 1990 its images were blurred and NASA was horrified to find that its giant mirror had been improperly polished. A problem that basic in the very heart of the machine seemed like a show-stopper, but they finally fixed it in 1993 by fitting it with the equivalent of reading glasses.

It has since become one of the greatest science machines of all time, but astronomers were already planning its successor, built to see the first stars and galaxies that emerged from dust and gas of the early universe, only a few millions of years after the Big Bang. The Hubble can see back to within a billion years of that event. As a result the Webb telescope is sometimes fondly referred to by astronomers as the ‘First Light machine’.

Knowing that Hubble might not last more than twenty years and guessing that Webb would take a long time (although they never imagined it would be this long, and Hubble is still working – just) work on Webb began even before Hubble was launched – and given how Webb had to work, a repeat of the Hubble problem was not acceptable; the machine “is not allowed to fail”. As a result much of the last decade has been spent simply testing the hell out of it:

[Tests] involved lowering the telescope’s temperature to the minus 390 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 217 degrees Celsius) in which it will operate, and in a vacuum similar to that of space.

“The cryo-vacuum tests for Webb were long and gruelling,” [Project scientist] Kimble said. “It would take weeks just to cool everything down safely and then warm up again safely at the end of the test. And in the middle, when you are cold and stable, that’s when you do your detailed testing.”

And there’s a lot that can still go wrong. It has a lot of moving parts that must work to enable it to unfold in space like a giant origami sculpture:

Perhaps the most nerve-wracking move will be the unfurling of the sunshield, which is scheduled to occur in the first week after launch. The sunshield system has 140 release mechanisms, 70 hinge assemblies, 400 pulleys, 90 cables and eight deployment motors, all of which need to perform correctly to get the five thin membranes extended

The mirror consists of 18 hexagonal segments, each of which is made of beryllium and coated with a thin layer of gold.

That second link covers the engineering challenges and has a video of how it’s all supposed to unfold. The sun shade has five layers, spaced apart for maximum thermal cooling to allow the telescope instruments to be as cold as possible, which they have to be to detect faint infrared light from the oldest objects in the universe. That’s also the reason it has to be stationed so far from Earth. Hubble has IR detectors now, but was never designed for the job and so is too warm itself and too close to our warm planet, to be able to see the faintest (and oldest) objects in the sky:

[Webb] will orbit the sun, while simultaneously making small circles around the so-called Lagrange point 2 (L2)… At L2, the gravitational pulls of the sun and of Earth keep the spacecraft aligned with the two big bodies. 

It will take Webb about a month to fly to that point, unfolding all the way. Since they’re made of metal the mirror’s segments can actually be warped slightly by small electric motors mounted behind each one; all part of the process of turning those 18 mirrors into one mirror 6m wide.

If all goes according to plan, the telescope will detect cosmic objects 10 billion times fainter than the dimmest star you can see in the night sky without a telescope. That’s 10 to 100 times fainter than anything Hubble can pick up, NASA officials said. And Webb’s vision will be so sharp that it can see details the size of a penny from 24 miles (40 km) away, they added.

Fingers crossed but so far it’s all good. Check out those two links, Engineering Webb and Launching Webb for more details and videos about how it works and what it will do.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 26, 2021 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Aerospace, Europe, Science, Space, Technology, USA

Tagged with ,

Subscribing to immunity

When I moved from the academic world of computers to the business world I began to learn about the business aspects of software.

Chief among those lessons was finding that the software used on mini and mainframe computers was not purchased but rented from the companies, with subscriptions based on time (typically annual), the number of users, or other factors.

The world of so-called “micro” computers was different. You bought MS-Windows and that was it. You even got a bunch of applications as part of the whole system and of course the system was typically pre-installed when you bought the hardware.

But even in that world, the model has been shifting for years now. Some software applications (apps) that used to come packaged with the OS (Operating System) have been pulled and must be purchased separately.

But the bigger shift has seen apps sold as the software on larger machines has been, with a subscription service. This has been the case for some years now with things like Adobe software (that produces the well known “.pdf” documents), but also photo editing and animation apps. Rather than buying music that sits on your computer’s disk drive, as with Apple’s iTunes system, people are paying a monthly subscription to Cloud-based services like Spotify. Same with photos, where a certain capacity is provided for “free” but more space requires a payment of a few dollars per month.

In the future it could move into the world of computer hardware as well, where you’ll rent a virtual machine in the Cloud. The software subscription model has shifted into areas you wouldn’t normally think of it applying. The latest Tesla cars have a feature where you can pay them to “unlock” high performance, but on a subscriber basis.

While I was working for an agricultural contractor I saw that the big John Deere “choppers” had two thick, heavy plastic “wands” mounted to the central prow of the header and that these could be used to drive the machines through maize fields on automatic pilot. However, when I asked one of the drivers about this feature he scoffed and said they didn’t use it because it meant paying some $US 1500 per year to JD for the related software in the computer system and “It’s not worth it”.

All this raises the issue of ownership. There used to be no question about computers, cars and such. You bought them and could then do what you wanted with them. But increasingly that’s not the case. In the USA a bit of a black market has developed with Eastern Europe where hacked tractor software has been obtained by American farmers to get their tractors going after a breakdown (shutdown might be more accurate), rather than waiting for the official JD mechanic. Tesla cars have been hacked in order to get features that require a subscription. Who owns your downloaded iTunes music after you die? What happens to all those photos you backed up for security to the Cloud service if you stop paying the monthly subscription?

All of which has had me wondering, as I watch the Big Pharma companies like Pfizer and Moderna gleefully make serious coin from their Covid-19 vaccine shots and now talk of booster shots every few months to maintain immunity, whether the drug industry has moved to the subscription model as well?

In a sense the illegal drug industry has long been doing that, hooking its “customers” on the drugs they sell, and getting regular payments guaranteed until the addiction is broken, sometimes only by death.

But with talk of vaccine passports and papers required to operate in society the legal drug companies have certainly hit the gold mine beloved of every big business by having the State on their side with regulations. Could this then become a standard feature of life, with us paying Pfizer (either directly or via government taxes) an annual subscription for the drugs needed to keep us alive or at least, “certified and legal”?

Written by Tom Hunter

October 29, 2021 at 6:31 am

Two classes of New Zealanders

It’s been a staple of Leftist politics and language since the days of Marx at least, and of course it is a template that can be applied to events further back in history than his time, notably the French Revolution and the Glorious Revoluton of 1688.

Whatever names were given it in different time periods and situations – Feudal Lords vs Peasants, Business Owners vs Workers, Colonialists vs Colonised, Us vs The Other – it has always basically amounted to Oppressor and Oppressed.

I think two quotes are applicable here, the first being the complete one rather than the usual shortened version, since the second part is eerily close to where we are now and where we are going:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

In this situation we should also not look to George Orwell’s dark vision of Nineteen Eighty Four but a different future dystopia, one that has appealed to me more as the years have passed since the great Counter-Culture revolution of the 1960’s.

“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”

I have of course made sure that the tags on this post are not just for the Labour Party, but also for National, ACT and the Greens.

Boosting into the Future with Pfizer

As we move forward in our Covid-19 world and the vaccination rates steadily rise around the world, researchers have begun to study so-called “breakthrough infections”, cases where a person who has been fully vaccinated against the Alpha variant catches the Delta variant.

Obviously there are no huge amounts of such studies yet because it’s early days. However, an outfit called Medrxiv, controlled by Yale University, BMJ and Cold Spring Harbour Labs, has just published a research paper based on a study of such infections in vaccinated US veterans.

Now that paper has not yet been peer-reviewed, however I see no reason why it won’t be published. BTW, “peer review” does not mean that a science paper is correct, later developments may improve it or outright prove it wrong. Peer review simply means that other qualified scientists have studied the paper and found no obvious problems (like stats screwups).

It’s an interesting read (if you’re into this sort of thing) but the conclusions must be taken into account for any nation’s vaccine strategy, especially for a nation like New Zealand that seems to be relying on the vaccine as the sole solution.

The study covered 620,000 USA veterans who were fully vaccinated. The start date is March 1st, 2021, two weeks after they got the second dose, and the end date was August 1st (confidence interval on results 99 percent).

To put that chart into words, the decline in protection against infection over a period of five months for the three vaccines studied is:

  • Janssen – Decline from 92 percent to 3 percent
  • Moderna – Decline from 91 percent to 64 percent.
  • Pfizer – Decline from 95 percent to 50 percent.

Now it must be noted that this is efficacy against infection. All the evidence to date is that the vaccines are still effective in protecting against illness, severe illness and death. That may fade with time as well, but we’ll have to wait and see.

What this means is that by early 2022, if you’re fully vaccinated with Pfizer and sitting beside a person infected with the Covid-19 virus your odds of catching it are basically a coin flip. That’s why booster shots for people who need to be protected – the elderly and those with health issues – will have to start soon.

That 3% for the Janssen virus is not a typo, as you can see on the graph. Having read about mRNA tech for years, mainly out of my interest in gene-crafted cancer treatments, these results are not surprising. The mRNA vaccines are like JDAM bombs; very precisely targeted weapons that hit one aspect of the virus.as opposed to traditional vaccine approach of “weakened” viruses that trigger a full-blown immune system reaction that identifies and targets just about every ID tag a virus carries. That’s the reason that natural immunity is superior to mRNA vaccine-induced immunity, as this recent undercover video showed with Pfizer scientists admitting that.

“When somebody is naturally immune— like they got COVID— they probably have…more antibodies against the virus because what the vaccine is…that protein is just on the outside.”

“It’s just one antibody against one specific part of the virus. When you actually get the virus you’ll start producing antibodies against multiple pieces of virus, not only the outside portion but the inside portion, the actual virus so your antibodies are probably better at that point than the vaccination.”

That’s Nick Karl, a biochemist at Pfizer. Another scientist, Raul Khandke:

“We’re like bred and taught to be like [the] vaccine is safer than actually getting COVID…you cannot like talk about this, it’s not in public. If you have antibodies built up, you should be able to prove that you have those built up.”

Chris Croce, senior associate scientist at Pfizer was the one with the real bombshells:

… basically our organization is run on COVID money now…..There’s eyes and ears everywhere. You don’t talk about anything that could possibly implicate you or Big Pharma. Even when you shut the door to the office, it’s like, ‘who’s listening?’”

So right now we are seeing an increase in the Delta variant. Not because of the variant but because of immune—basically [the vaccinated] antibodies are waning—they’re still protected but not at that 95 percent efficacy. It’s more like 70 percent.”

But I also appreciated these comments from him as he basically says that “restrictions” are meant to frustrate the unvaccinated into getting the jab, whether they want it or not, plus the medical ethics involved in doing so:

“If you are restricting people who are unvaccinated from doing anything and vaccinated people are allowed to do anything they want, eventually they’re just gonna be like, fuck it, let me just get vaccinated.

but still, you shouldn’t have to show anything, which is basically, in my opinion, a violation of HIPAA. They… no one has a right to ask you if you’ve been vaccinated or so… it’s an invasion of privacy. I don’t agree with it.

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (1996).

I feel a bit sorry for these three scientists who seem like nice, decent guys who got sucked in to having dinner with some lovely ladies who had camera equipment. Those men are now probably in deep shit at Pfizer, although I’ll bet that the MSM have ignored this story.

But between such waning immunity, medical ethics, and natural immunity, I really have doubts that vaccine papers are going to work – and that’s assuming this government can get them done when they’ve proven so incompetent on achieving all their other goals.

Oh, and there’s another mutant virus on the way:

As the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK and Israel are experiencing a wave of coronavirus cases due to the new descendant of the Delta variant AY.4.2, also called the “Delta Plus” variant.

The Delta is still a dominant variant in the UK, however, AY.4.2 delta sublineage is rapidly increasing in frequency. It includes spike mutations A222V and Y145H, which might give the virus survival advantages, according to the latest report from the UK Health Security Agency.

This reality is going to unfold in New Zealand next year. This virus, in one mutated form or another, is going to sweep through the population and it will not be possible to hide the results. In increasing numbers, vaccinated people will become infected with Delta, Delta AY4.2, and whatever comes next. I don’t think that will result in any great wave of hospitalisations, let alone deaths, but there will be some.

But what will our answer be? More vaccines? Boosters? Another set of mRNA vaccines specifically crafted for the new mutations ? More lockdowns?

Written by Tom Hunter

October 25, 2021 at 6:12 pm

Great! Now fire Fauci

A couple of weeks ago news came out that Francis Collins, longtime head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had resigned.

The NIH was founded in the 1880’s, has twenty thousand people working for it, including six thousand research scientists, and has an annual budget of $42 billion. It’s a big deal.

Collins resignation statement said this:

“I fundamentally believe … that no single person should serve in the position too long, and that it’s time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future.”

He had been the Director after twelve years since being appointed by President Obama.

However, it’s more likely that he resigned because the pressure of multiple scandals was building up, as reported here: details can be read at the link but here’s the synopsis, with each headline carrying further links:

1. Francis Collins Advised a Chinese Military Proxy-Linked Group Working with BGI Genomics to collect biometric data on Americans via Covid-19 testing.

2. Collins Admits Funding Wuhan Lab: ‘We Had No Control Over What They Were Doing”

3. Collins oversaw Research Deals Signed With Chinese Communist Military Front.

4. NIH agencies have funded over 250 Studies for Chinese Communist Military Researchers.

5. America Has Given Millions for ‘Research’ At Chinese Communist-Run Facilities Since COVID Outbreak.

6. U.S. National Institutes of Health Fires 54 Researchers As Ongoing Investigation Reveals 93% Failed to Disclose Links to Chinese Communist Party

But Collins is hardly alone. He’s worked with his minion, Anthony Fauci and at arms-length with Peter Daszak. In case you’re not aware of it Daszak is the virus research scientist who coordinated the now infamous Lancet letter:

In February 2020, the journal published a letter dismissing the lab-leak theory. It stated: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” The authors really wanted us to believe the bat soup theory. Thanks to Dr. Fauci’s emails, we now know that Dr. Peter Daszak, who funded gain-of-function research in the Wuhan lab, coordinated the 2020 letter.

It was not until June 2021 that the Wuhan Lab leak theory was taken off the conspiracy shelf, even to the extent of the Washington Post re-writing old articles that had attacked the likes of GOP Senator Tom Cotton, who had pushed the lab-leak theory early and hard. It took The Lancet a little longer but finally, eighteen months after Daszak’s corrupted effort, they published the alternative theory.

In the meantime, Fauci remains in place, head of one of the NIH sub-agencies, NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases). You think Collins has been around forever? Look at this:

The guy has been in charge for thirty seven years, more than three times as long as any other Director. He’s the J Edgar Hoover of NIAD. He stopped being a doctor and joined the Federal bureaucracy in 1968: he is now eighty years old and the highest paid person in the US Federal government.

Everything about his history tells us that he morphed into being a politician/bureaucrat and survives as such, convinced that he’s right and everybody else is wrong. For example, on the funding of SARS virus “gain of function” research, after the Obama administration banned it in 2014 Fauci and others simply decided that was wrong and figured out a way to get the research done in the Wuhan lab, and how to re-direct US funding towards it, apparently telling nobody in the Obama Administration about it and repeating the effort with the Trump Administration, where multiple officials are on record saying that Fauci never told them anything about this either.

A very dangerous Sir Humphrey Appleby.

He also loves the media attention he’s gotten in the last two years, even when he simply contradicts himself as he has on masks, or made forecasts that have simply turned out to be wrong, such as his predictions in 2020 that finally opening up baseball games would be “super-spreader” events. They were not, which surprised few people other than Fauci, since it’s known how rare outdoor transmission of the virus is. Yet both things didn’t stop him making exactly the same predictions about College Football games a month ago, predictions which have also turned out wrong:

The Today Show did a story pointing out Dr. Fauci was 100% wrong about college football games being superspreaders. When the freaking Today Show is doing this story you know the narrative is changing in a hurry.

But it’s more than just being a political bureaucrat. As this article points out:

This is the big problem with Fauci, among many of his other flaws. He just…says things. Often, those things are colored by politics. So when there were George Floyd protests by leftwing activists throughout the country last year, when we didn’t even have a vaccine yet, Fauci was silent. He never once went on MSNBC, CNN, or any of his other favorite outlets to talk about how dangerous those people were supposedly being. Yet, when it comes to groups of people that are perceived as right-leaning, including sports fans, Fauci suddenly finds his tongue and makes bold proclamations of doom.

Yet, those proclamations rarely pan out because again, Fauci just says things. He almost never has hard numbers to back up what he’s saying when he appears on TV. He shoots from the hip and goes with his gut, and his gut just so happens to constantly favor leftwing narratives.

He could yet find himself in trouble for “saying things” in Congress in response to specific questions from GOP Senator (and MD) Rand Paul about funding the “gain of function” research where even the Washington Post took Fauci down about his evasive, disingenuous responses:

Fauci also told Paul there’s no possibility the research in the paper Paul cited directly led to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but Paul correctly called this out as a straw man. That specific project was only one element of the U.S. government multiagency effort that for years pumped U.S. money and know-how into these Wuhan labs, via the EcoHealth Alliance, including NIH, USAID and the Pentagon. According to an intelligence fact sheet released by the Trump administration and partially confirmed by the Biden administration, the WIV took our help and used it to build another, secret part of the lab, where they worked with the Chinese military.

Whether that amounts to lying to Congress is yet to be decided but Paul has laid a formal complaint.

Purely on the basis of avoiding the calcification of thinking and systems that happen when people stay in one role for decades, he should have been gone long ago. He should have actually been fired for his performance during the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s:

Anthony Fauci is only a minor player in Shilts’ account [And the Band Played On (1987), which is widely considered the definitive history of the early years of the AIDS epidemic], but the book details one key incident during which Fauci publicly implied, in a prominent editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that there could be casual household transmission of HIV—an assertion contrary to all of the best science being done at the time. When the (inevitable) blowback from his colleagues and peers came, he accused the media and laypeople of “not understanding the language of science.

Even as a young scientist, Fauci had already become an expert in the D.C. sport of political deflection and denial. Fauci’s sloppiness led to months of AIDS hysteria where the public worried about entirely implausible casual transmission pathways. 

It seems that the US public is also finally tiring of him, as a recent Rasmussen survey showed:

Asked, “Do you agree or disagree [that]… Fauci has lost all credibility with the American people,” 38 percent said they strongly agree, 16 percent said they somewhat agree. Only 36 percent in total said they disagreed with this statement, and 11 percent remained unsure.

Likely only his NIH boss can fire him, and nobody is even sure about that. He should be pressured to resign but given how well he aligns with Biden Administration health policy on Covid-19 that seems unlikely.

It’s also clear that ego, arrogance, hubris, shamelessness, love of media attention (when it’s friendly) and the fact that he’ll have nothing as great as this for the rest of his life, mean he won’t resign of his own choice.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 19, 2021 at 3:10 pm